Ever since I've moved around to several countries and eventually settling here in the UK I have felt amazed whenever I go back to my home country, Japan. It's because Japan has so many, sometimes too many, different things to offer that other countries don't have. And those things always make me miss Japan. What I miss most about Japan would definitely be onsen (hot springs). I grew up in Matsuyama of Ehime Prefecture, which has one of the oldest onsen hot springs (Dogo Onsen) in Japan. I have been enjoying bathing and relaxing since I was a little boy.
Taking a bath in public with anonymous people would sound very strange for those who are not from Japan, but it is a very important part of our culture and also a place we socialize with people. Soaking in a natural hot spring soothes your pain, stress, and opens up your mind.
I remember going to onsen with my late Jiichan (Grandpa) before I started my long world journey, which ended up lasting three and a half years. He repeatedly told me his youth-time stories and how things were difficult and different back then than now.
He wanted to leave home and chase for his dream and career, but since he was the oldest son his parents didn't let him go (in our culture the oldest son is supposed to take over the parents' house or their family business).
One night he snuck out of the window and left the house. I couldn't see or link this young, ambitious man to my Jiichan bathing next to me.
This young man's secret mission didn't go as he planned. His family found him and took him back home, sadly. But luckily for me, otherwise, I wouldn't be here.
After his story, he said I should do whatever I want to do and I should see the world as much as I can. If I didn't go to onsen at this point and hear his story, my life now would have been different. And I am grateful for having this onsen culture in my country.
So if you happen to visit Japan (hopefully with Japan Airlines!), try this hot spring with your family and friends. Or you can just go on your own and socialize with the locals.
Name: Tsubasa Mitsuda
From: Japan (U.K. base)
Current section: European Region Sales and Marketing Planning Group
Address: 6-8, Dogoyuno Cho, Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture (Zip code: 790-0842)
Website: Dogo Onsen